Blacklistt, formerly Blindspott, have hit the road and the fans are loving them no matter what they're called, writes Scott Kara.

Marcus Powell doesn't mention his old mate Shelton Woolright by name when he talks about the legal wrangle over their former band, Blindspott.

"It was draining," he says of the fight for the right to the band's name. "We fought it for so long and we sort of lost focus about why we were doing it."

He and Woolright - both proud Westies - were friends from their days at kindy out in West Auckland. They started Blindspott when they were at high school, along with singer Damian Alexander, bass player Gareth Fleming and turntablist/keyboardist Karl Vilisini. With their sung/roared vocals and heavy yet melodic sound they became one of New Zealand's biggest rock bands.

But after a decade together, two popular albums, and songs like Nil By Mouth and Flex gaining them legions of devout fans, Blindspott went their separate ways in 2007. However, when the band decided to reform, minus Woolright who had moved to Britain and formed I Am Giant, a dispute broke out over the rights to the name Blindspott.


Depending on which side you talk to there are different versions of events. But when the lawyers got involved, both parties were looking down the barrel of a long and ugly court battle.

Which is half the reason the members of Blacklistt - the name Powell, Alexander, Fleming, Vilisini and new drummer Tristan Reilly took up in the interim - have, not so much called a truce, but laid the Blindspott name to rest.

"And I guess that's why we wrote Worth Fighting For [Blacklistt's second single following last year's From the Blindspott]," says Powell.

"What is this all worth? We lost our friendship, we've lost that drive as Blindspott. So we wrote that song and it's all about what we're doing this for - and it's for the music."

Now that they are known as Blacklistt, from a musical perspective they have the best of both worlds because they can still play old Blindspott songs and also new material.

And besides, says Alexander, "the fans have been really vocal about not really giving a shit about the name.

"So we just thought f*** it, let's go with Blacklistt."

The band are on their first nationwide tour and Alexander reckons it's good to be back on stage.

"It's been too long between drinks. We've played Homegrown [in Wellington] and stuff like that but it's not until you get out and start touring where you get a vibe for the people," he says.

They play in New Plymouth and Wellington this weekend before next week's shows at Altitude in Hamilton on June 22 and Auckland's Powerstation on June 23.

There are still many Blindspott fans - and, by default, Blacklistt fans - out there. Blindspott are still one of the most requested and played bands on radio station The Rock, with the band's self-titled debut coming in at No 20 on the station's annual Rock 100 list for 2012.

"We have a unique connection with our fans," says Powell. "I think we represent Kiwiana for local Westies who love making music, and they relate to us and the music."

Alexander says the band's early hits like Room to Breathe, Flex, and Nil By Mouth still stand up today even though they were very much products of the late 90s and early 2000s era of music when rock and hip-hop merged.

"They are reminiscent of what was going on in music at the time but they are still timeless because when we wrote that first record there was an immense amount of honesty in what we were doing. We spoke from the heart, we didn't beat around the bush, and we were really straight up. So that's what's carried them through," he says.

As Blacklistt they may be a little older, possibly a little wiser, and even a few grey hairs starting to come through, but it's not that much different being in a band these days now that they're in their 30s and family men.

"There is all this great stuff that we had with Blindspott that we still have which is the energy and dynamism in the room when we write," says Alexander.

"And having the original line-up back together is pretty special, to be honest. You look at it and think, 'Why did we ever stop doing this? Why did all this shit get in the way and make us stop?'.

"But with all the stuff that went down over the name it was nice to shed all the baggage that went with [the initial Blindspott split].

"It was about moving on. New name, same music, clean slate."

Who: Blacklistt
What: The band formerly known as Blindspott hit the road again. New album out later this year.
Where and when: The Mayfair, New Plymouth, June 15; San Francisco Bath House, Wellington, June 16; Altitude Bar, Hamilton, June 22; Powerstation, Auckland, June 23.

- TimeOut